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June 10 2013

3:04 PM

Rough is last defense for soft Merion

Ernie Els said Merion's rough is "as bad as I've ever seen it." (Lyons/Getty Images)

Firm, fast conditions are always the USGA's desire for the U.S. Open, especially at a short Merion course where players will use their wedges more often than usual. The weather is not cooperating with the USGA's desires, though. Rain continued to fall on Merion on Monday, all but guaranteeing the course will play soft when the Open's first round begins Thursday.

"You're not going to see a firm U.S. Open this year, I'm sorry," two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els said Monday. "I don't care if they get helicopters flying over the fairways. It's not going to dry up. We're going to have a soft golf course this week, all week. It means that if you're on your game you're going to have a lot of birdie putts. ... You're going to see a lot more birdies than ever at a U.S. Open."

Thick rough and precarious pin placements may be Merion's last lines of defense. Els said the rough is "as bad as I've ever seen it." Els said the soft conditions will lead to a sub-par winning score -- some predicted that players will reach double-digits under par in soft conditions -- but the U.S. Open's intimidation factor may keep scoring in check, Els said. Merion's difficult closing holes, and it's tough par-3s, also will keep players from going too far into the red, Els said.

"It's going to be an exciting U.S. Open," Els said. "What number is going to win, I have no idea. It's still a U.S. Open. I don't care if you play the easiest course in the world. Put U.S. Open in front of it, everybody gets nervous, especially over the weekend."

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